What Are You Afraid Of?

The public is panicking over this Coronavirus. Sporting events have been canceled, churches are vacant, and grocery shelves are all but empty. Many people in America are in fear of contracting this virus, so they’re hunkering down at home.

Having overcome the fear of death, contracting the virus is way down on the list of my concerns. However, I can relate to the fear of going out in public.

My name is Bill, and I am agoraphobic.

Agoraphobia: Extreme or irrational fear of entering open or crowded places, of leaving one’s own home, or of being in places from which escape is difficult.

“Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26).

In other posts, I’ve told you that I call our bedroom “the cave.” The eye-tracking computer I use works best in dimly lit rooms, so I keep the lights off. The blinds on the door to the back patio are open, but that’s usually the only light in the room. It’s a climate-controlled and otherwise comfortable cave, but it’s still a cave. I am very thankful for creature comforts. As of this month, I’ve spent twenty years in this cave.

“We can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear…'” (Hebrews 13:6).

I once thought agoraphobia was something people claimed to have because they wanted to stay home and binge-watch Netflix. Not really, but I just couldn’t imagine why an able-bodied person would have a fear of public spaces. I do understand, all too well, the fear of public spaces for the physically and mentally disabled, especially those with autism like my nephew. I get sensory overload.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1).

The last twenty years in my cave staring at a computer screen for twelve hours a day has taken a toll on my eyes. My vision has become increasingly blurry over the last few years. I knew that I needed to go to the eye doctor, but that meant public spaces. And not just any public space. The eye doctor we’ve gone to for years now works at the Walmart Vision Center. His former practice was in a small strip center with a handicap parking space fifteen feet from the door. That was okay, but a busy Walmart is a scary place for someone with agoraphobia.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.” (Psalm 56:3-4).

It’s so ironic that I’ve developed a fear of public spaces because at the time I was diagnosed with ALS twenty-three years ago, I was a Regional Sales Manager in the grocery business. I spent many of my days visiting grocery stores, including Walmart stores, throughout Texas, and the other five states in my region.

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4).

My last trip to a public space was two years ago when I had to have surgery to remove a growth on the lower eyelid of my left eye. Ouch! The surgeon had what he removed tested, and it turned out to be basil cell carcinoma. I had to go back for him to remove more. Now I have a similar bump on the lower eyelid of my right eye. My trips in public are so exciting.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.” (Psalm 42:5).

My fear of public spaces is not just a product of my imagination. I have had some horrible things happen when we’ve ventured out in the past. I’ve mentioned some of these in other posts. Like the time our van’s wheelchair lift decided to break when I was three feet off the ground – in the pouring rain! I am thankful for the first responders that rescued me at that time and a few other times. We had the wheelchair lift repaired and it works great, but I’m still a little nervous about using it.

After a year of Mary prodding me, I finally relented and agreed to see the eye doctor (no pun intended). I still cringed when she told me that she made an appointment. In the days leading up to the appointment, I became nervous just thinking about going. Because I’m so high maintenance, Sharlene, the part-time caregiver I’ve had for almost thirteen years, went with us to the appointment last Friday.

Everything went fine. None of the things I feared materialized. Isn’t that the way it is with most of our fears?

Fear is such a powerful force. It’s a bully that robs us of sleep and puts stress on virtually every other aspect of our lives – if we permit it to do so.

We can’t allow fear to control our lives. If we want to replace fear with hope, we have to be careful, especially in these dark days, of what we see and hear. The news and zombie apocalypse shows will not give you hope. Instead:

“Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9).

We must also surround ourselves with hope-filled people. Mary and I have had our hope strengthened, and our fears diminished by hopeful followers of Christ, including our blogging friends.

We are living in difficult times. If you’re looking for hope, Unshakable Hope, apart from Christ, I don’t have any advice for you. If you are not a follower of Christ, I am hoping and praying that you will commit to following Him today.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, at the age of 36, I was diagnosed with ALS. The neurologist gave me 3-5 years to live. 24 years later... :-) I'm completely paralyzed and unable to speak. By God's grace and the great care of my wife, I'm still here. I live to encourage and give hope to others going through difficult times.

Posted on March 15, 2020, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 124 Comments.

  1. Theresa Schrock

    Bill, You truly are a follower of Christ speaking His Word and causing faith to rise! It’s sad but true that there are some Christians that are afraid and start believing Conspiracy theories that promote fear. We should encourage believers and unbelievers to turn to God during this time. I heard a pastor say today that statistics show an increase in porn and alcohol purchases since the social distancing and the shut down. My heart cries for Jesus. I’m praying the Holy Spirit will bring the rain into every home and there will be a great harvest of souls that find the greatest love of their lives!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Theresa. I heard the same thing on the news today: viewing porn has increased and the sale of alcohol and Marijuana are way up. It’s the job of Christ’s followers to reach out to these people.

      Like

  2. What a great post Bill! I am new to the blogging community (just started my own blog) and taking a peek at other bloggers. Boy, I am so happy and blessed to have come across yours. I look forward to reading more! I have struggled with fear most of my life, since a child and was locked in an invisible prison for a long time until I really got to know my Lord and Savior. He gently guided me to a place of hope and anchored my heart to his. My journey with faith and fear is why I started to blog. Thank you for sharing! ~Alicia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Alicia. Welcome to the blogging world. I’m looking forward to checking out your blog. I have a blogging tip for you: add a link to your blog and a little intro about you to your Gravatar profile. This way others can find a link to your blog when they click on your Gravatar picture.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful post Bill. I’m so glad you made it for the next visit. Like so many of your blogging friends I have thought of you in these days. Keep blogging – your words matter. Is Mary’s work stabile through these day’s?Blessings to you and Mary. Beth and Andrew Melbourne Australia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Beth. Mary hasn’t worked since November of 2018. Taking care of me is now her full-time job 🙂 God has been taking care of us. As you know, He is good.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Bill
        You had said that in an earlier post I’m sorry. I thought perhaps she had done work outside. I trust God will continue to take care of you and that people continue to sow into your ministry 💜

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, Beth. We are both very thankful for God’s provision. It would have been impossible for Mary to have taken care of me and worked after I had pneumonia and was put on hospice in September of 2018. She was laid-off six weeks later. That’s another 8:28 story.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your honesty and wonderful sense of humor, Bill. I read somewhere that introverts have been practicing for such a time as this their whole lives. My husband and I have always sought the quietest nature places to visit, so our habits haven’t changed much. The social distancing means I can stay home and watch our local church sermon on line. My heart goes out to extroverts and front-line workers at this time. Scary times. But God isn’t scared. So we don’t need to panic either. God wants us to be calm, kind, and careful.
    Blessings to you and Mary ~ Wendy Mac

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amen, brother Bill! Amen! So encouraging 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Bill,

    Yes, fear is a fiend to faith. The Lord keep you well and your family safe. Thank the Lord He has a great plan with all of this.

    In Christ,

    Gary

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You used some of my favorite scriptures. I love this post so much. Thank you for sharing about your Agoraphobia. I didn’t know this about you and appreciate you being so vulnerable (as always). My nursing facility is on lockdown and I found myself feeling claustrophobic and anxious at times. The scriptures you chose really helped. Thank you, Bill. I’m always thinking of you and Mary and pray for you. I send my love to both of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love the positive motivation! It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos. The only thing that will allow peace to overwhelm you in these situations is to refocus your attention to God and His goordness!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You my friend put things in perspective so perfectly. You have trusted and have become a template of faith and an awesome example of a scholar of HIS! You have all the perfect verses. Who knows what would have happened without this part of your life having happened? Would you be such a Godly man? I suspect so. I can’t imagine you otherwise. But I have been fixated on trying to find the good that comes out of something bad. Especially now days. I just lost my friend of over twenty years to cancer. It was unsuspected even though she was on hospiice. (they’d gotten a van with a lift and were talking about taking her off of hospice to continue a trial treatment she’d been on a few months earlier before they found another spot on her spine that left her paralized from the surgery removing it. Kind of like you, she’d been fighting cancer for 20 years. Though was still able to live a pretty good life. Teaching Sunday school, traveling and even moving in with Chris & Michele Pickens to help out with Chris’s care. Ironically, I’m thinking I’m glad she didn’t have to worry about this virus. But that’s not the good that I have discovered through all this. I think it has made me pause and listen to people like you with all of the wisdom. Thank you for always making sense of God’s word. What would I do without ya?
    xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Fear is so insidious, and these days it is running rampant. Great job of facing your fear and going to the appointment! And the verses you supplied are all ones that bring peace in the midst of troubles. Thank you for another wonderful post. Praying for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi, Bill!
    I’m so happy to see this piece. For me, fears are vicious foes, driving me away from myself and others exactly when I need to be turning toward them. Even in his pre-death struggles, Jesus turned toward us. I’m encouraged because even he had fears about death. Somehow his struggles invite me to face my own everyday and end of life fears.

    Your inclusion of Scripture verses is wonderful! Like a still small voice or lovely echo that keeps calling us back to our true selves as followers of Jesus Christ.

    Blessings, prayers for grace and peace, and gratitude for your clear, consistent witness!
    Elouise

    Like

  13. Hello Bill! Once again you have proved amazing. After reading your blog today I do feel a sense of calm that I hadn’t before. I loved the way you intermixed the scriptures. I was reminded of a sermon I heard years ago about coming to Christ, that one day its going to be too late. It’s like purchasing a parachute before you fly, if the flight fails its too late to buy one then. Why not carry your parachute with you! These times today fill my heart with anxiety for people and my own family members who do not know the Lord. I can’t image getting through this time without Him. I just can’t put in words how inspiring you are to me when I read your blogs. You are a gift. Thank you and Mary both. Love and Hugs to both!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Lynda.
      Anxiety is spreading much quicker than the virus. The economy is on shaky ground. Like you, I am very thankful that my hopes are not in the world’s solutions. Don’t give in to anxiety, fix your eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:2

      Like

  14. Awesome! Thanks for sharing!
    Walt

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wonderful post Bill. Trying times such as these have a way of revealing much about us. For example, as Christians we may be tempted to boast of our accomplishments, or perhaps to think just a bit more of ourselves than we ought when all is going great in our lives.

    It is when adversity comes however that our true “self” is revealed. As I mentioned in a message I delivered Sunday, we either are what we say we are, or we are not. Try as we might to stay comfortably in the middle of the two, there can be no middle ground when it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Like you, I am praying that the current situation will cause multitudes to run to Jesus.

    Have a blessed day my friend,

    Ron

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ron. That’s a good message. No boasting about accomplishments here 🙂 I do have a lot of weaknesses to boost about, though:
      “He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you for sharing. God Bless you ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  17. A unique perspective when applied to the current scenario, Bill, but then it would be. And it’s not surprising, really, that your darkened, temp-controlled home would represent security long before it did for the rest of us–we’re just catching up with you! Thanks, as always, for your faithful witness to a far greater security.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Amen, Bill. this is a great testimony and such an encouragement to me. God is still in control. Many believe that being a Christian means we deny the magnitude of what is happening as they see the alternative as fearing. But this isn’t true. We don’t need to deny what’s happening or be afraid. God is just as in control today as He is everyday. He’s not taken off guard by this and we shouldn’t be either. All the days written for me (us) were written in His book before even one came to be. And those days aren’t dependent upon COVID-19 or anything else this world brings! Blessings to you, sir.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Thank you, Bill, for your honesty about suffering from agoraphobia. From the number of “likes” and the list of comments, you touched on a topic most of us deal with at least occasionally–fear. You are so right: what we see and hear has a vital impact on our emotions. And we can’t go wrong with scripture. All those verses you included here are worthy of memorization! Then we’ll be ready with perfect thoughts that are noble, true, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. We can fight fear with faith! Even so, when the moment comes to get in the car, go in the office, or step on the stage–whatever–putting one shaky foot in front of the other until we’re on the other side of fear is sometimes the most courageous thing we can do. Then comes the fun part: praising God for getting us through!

    Liked by 4 people

  20. Amen Bill! Praying for you and your family! God bless you all!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. After all you’ve been through, it’s surprisingly refreshing to know that you still have fears. How wonderfully human we all are even when we live by faith! You’re so right, our only real hope is in Jesus. God’s perfect love which reminds us that he only has good for us, never harm, casts out fear. What do we fear when he is in control? Thank you for another honest and encouraging post. And I’m glad the situation turned out well for you!

    Liked by 4 people

  22. What a beautifully, honestly, vulnerably Imparted message of hope ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Such wonderful and timely encouragement brother, thank you! I understand real fears and those that seem irrational, having suffered from panic attacks rooted in trauma. Both are gripping but Amen to you Bill, the word of God can free us!
    Thinking of you and beloved Mary, thank you. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Lisa. God’s word definitely gives us the courage to battle real and imagined fears. I’ve had things go horribly wrong in our adventures to public spaces. I have talked about in other posts, like getting stuck up in the air on my wheelchair lift and having to be rescued by firemen 🙂 The truth is, many of the things I joke about were traumatic.

      Like

      • So amazing Bill, how God uses these traumas and hardships for His glory. I believe He boasts of you maybe saying….”Look, look at my son Bill, stuck up in the air. Yes it’s terrible but his faith still stands tall…through Bill I’ll encourage so many!”
        Not to mention beloved Mary! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  24. Silvia Lia Leigh, MD

    Dear Brother in Christ, Bill, in many ways I envy you. This is just a small reminder that you are a blessed (happy, to be envied) man! You have found Christ (the greatest Treasure ever) and you have found yourself in Him! In heaven (your destination, for sure) there are millions of redeemed people and angels. They all praise God with loud voices! It is an open, crowded noisy place, this heaven. But I am sure that by that time, we will be completely free from any limitation of body and mind. So, we shall rejoice forever! “Let the worship begin and never end…” God bless you!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  25. As is usual for me Bill, something in your posts always is apropos…. fear is a strange thing. Sometimes we think we’ve conquered it, only to find that it’s a different fear that has crept in. Could you pray for me … that this fear which does rob me of sleep and a feeling of well-being I can give to God and know that He will give me that perfect peace that all will be well… Diane

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Many thanks to you for being open about your anxiety issue, even though you are a believer!
    I could so relate to everything you shared. I don’t know but, somehow I’ve gotten the unspoken message that, as a Christian, we’re not supposed to suffer any type of mental disorder! Well, I also have fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and cervical spinal stenosis! Oh yes, I also wear glasses and need to visit my dentist every six months! An illness is an illness, no matter what part of the body it affects, right?!! Thank you again for your transparency. It has encouraged me to do the same. Oh yes, I also love the Lord with every fiber of my being!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Hi Bill and Mary, I didn’t know that you were agoraphobic Bill. In the last two or three weeks I have learned about some ailments that a number of my Christian brothers and sisters deal with, that I hadn’t previously known about. And in every instance, learning a little bit more about them, brings with it an additional level of respect, because so often, in spite of all they are currently dealing with, they just seem to overlook an additional particular difficulty, that in itself alone, would be very trying at best, for any of us to deal with. It just makes me aware of how little we all really know about one another and I don’t mean that in a negative way. There’s always more to learn and more to appreciate about our Christian brothers and sisters. Actually everyone, when you really stop to think about it. And yet, our God knows us better than we know ourselves and He still loves us. That is kind of amazing in itself. Sometimes, with this new awareness, all we can do is say thank you to God and praise His Holy name. And that is what I do for both you and Mary, because the two of you really are gifts to all of us, from God. Thank you for being who you are. I can’t help but think that Jesus is smiling. Blessings.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Bruce. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with agoraphobia, but, from everything I’ve read, that’s me. Going out and about didn’t bother me when I was stronger and could drive my own chair… I kind of enjoyed cruising around Home Depot and even Walmart. I dread going out in public now.
      Thanks for your always encouraging comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. This was calming to the soul. I particularly liked Psalm 42. Thank you for being a blessing.

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Such perfect words today, sharing God’s Word to meet us all in our own places of fear too. Thank you so very much for bringing us hope from the Lord. Blessings and prayers for you!

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Wonderful, thought provoking post, Bill. I’m praying your eyes will soon both be 100%. I was in the store the other day and people were in a panic, filling their shopping carts with toilet paper. I can relate to you, in your room all day but I was in my 60’s before I realized I was an introvert. I don’t mind spending day after day alone. But the Lord’s presence is always very real. I’m sure it is for you too. And Face Book helps too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Carol. Even though I was in sales, I am an introvert, too. I have always liked alone time. It’s strange and kind of funny that people are stocking up on toilet paper 🙂

      Like

  31. Hi Bill and Mary, the two of you are in my prayers every morning and every evening and did my thoughts. Thank you for your blog and your sense of humor, but most importantly thank you for your faith.

    Liked by 4 people

  32. Thank you for sharing with us. Your words have encouraged me.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Thank you for sharing this so openly. It encourages and strengthens to read your posts. May we focus on the God of peace, hope and the one who is sovereign over all. Blessings 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  34. The ayes have it

    Fear is not beneficial

    Hope in the Lord

    Is most consequential

    Even at Walmart

    Where people are panicky

    Vision restoration

    Is good for anxiety

    Thanks for the post

    A message to all

    What I hope the most

    Is blessings for y’all

    Liked by 4 people

  35. My heart goes out to you, Bill. Once again, you have chosen to share your innermost concerns, in order to encourage the rest of us.

    As it happens, I suffer both from generalized anxiety and social anxiety — not attributes a former lawyer can point to w/ pride. Funny that I should fear being judged and found wanting in public. My faults are all too obvious to those who know and love me (LOL).

    But courage does not consist solely in the absence of fear. It consists, also, in accomplishing a necessary task despite fear. When the moment comes, you can be sure that God will give you the necessary strength. Just think how relieved Mary will be when that growth has been removed from your eye!

    As for the coronavirus, God knows the length of our days — w/ or w/o it. Meanwhile, there is no point living in fear.

    Your friend,

    Anna ❤

    Liked by 6 people

  36. “Everything went fine. None of the things I feared materialized. Isn’t that the way it is with most of our fears?
    Fear is such a powerful force. It’s a bully that robs us of sleep and puts stress on virtually every other aspect of our lives – if we permit it to do so.”
    Love to you my friend (。♥‿♥。)

    Liked by 4 people

  37. Rebecca T Gonzales

    Bill . . . loved reading this, as usual. So glad you went to the eye doctor. See you hopefully as soon as this COVID19 subsides. Keep my room ready and Mary and I will try not to keep you awake too late!! ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  38. So well written Bill, glad you and Mary had Sharlene to go along with you and everything turned out so well. What a perfect message for the day.

    Liked by 3 people

  39. Good stuff Bill! Bumps happen in our life. Just glad the eyes of your understanding are continually enlightened! Ephesians 1:18

    Liked by 3 people

  40. Hi Bill: as I again noticed the very last part of the notation at the end of your blog:
    “he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ – Unshakable Hope!”, I reflected, how true.
    You continue to be one of the most inspiring persons I have ever “met” and I again thank you for your consistency in Christ. It is so obvious how you must depend on God for all you do.
    Joining you and all the others Bill, praying with expectations for a complete healing of your eye, and total sight restoration. We would all be missing a great friend, encourager, and support, if you are not able to type for a while.
    God’s Blessings to you and Mary, along with His Strength for each of you.

    Liked by 4 people

  41. just make sure the eyes of you understanding remain clear of any bumps!

    Liked by 3 people

  42. Bill, your encouraging posts despite your many challenges, helps so many. By the stripes of Jesus the growth on your eye is gone and you are healed. Abundant blessings to you and Mary!

    Liked by 4 people

  43. Very well written and inspiring.9

    Liked by 2 people

  44. Praying hard Bill. You are so right. Fear and panic in this situation is probably making the problem worse. God Bless

    Liked by 3 people

  45. Great message Bill (and amusing too). You are why so many of us have Unshakable Hope! Well said.

    Liked by 4 people

  46. You’ve had your share of challenges, my friend. The agoraphobia seems something the enemy taunts you with, that you need to constantly lean into Jesus for hope and peace. But God. He has so thoroughly embraced you with His Word that you see His grace even in the fear. Thanks for your vulnerability, Bill. Your willingness to share so openly helps so many others with the focus on the hope of Jesus.

    Liked by 4 people

  47. Wonderful post.
    I’m sharing it with friends. You have quoted one of my life scriptures in Phil 4:6-8 which I have held onto since my eldest was born and have shared many many times.
    I’m Praying for that eye growth to disappear, heal and for your eyesight to be restored better than before 20/20 vision in Jesus name.
    Many blessings and health to you and Mary.
    Planning on watching bethel church service today (Monday) and agreeing with the prayers for the world.
    The world is a better place with you in it Bill and Mary.
    Beth x

    Liked by 4 people

  48. Bill, thank you for your undiminished witness to the power of God’s peace in the midst of a life that most of us would consider impossible. You also remind us that peace is not a constant. New fears arise, and we must turn once again to the Love that gives us that peace that passes all understanding. If you can do it, over and over, so can we.

    Liked by 3 people

  49. Thank you for sharing your perspective on the current crisis.

    Liked by 2 people

  50. I have thought of you and Mary during these last few days so much (and prayed). Grateful for your hope-filled blog and, most of all, for all those Scriptures! Sending a (socially-distancing and non-lingering cyber-) hug your way and Mary’s.

    Liked by 6 people

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